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Police-reported crime statistics, 2016

Released: 2017-07-24

The police-reported Crime Severity Index (CSI), which measures the volume and severity of crime, increased 1% in 2016 over the previous year. This marked the second consecutive rise in the index following 11 years of declines. Even with this increase, the index is still 29% lower than it was in 2006.

The CSI is a measure of police-reported crime that reflects the relative seriousness of individual offences and tracks changes in crime severity. It indicates whether police-reported crime was relatively more or less serious than in previous years. For ease of interpretation, the index is converted to 100 for the base year of 2006.

The rise in Canada's CSI in 2016 was primarily driven by a continued increase in the rate of fraud. In addition, increases were reported in rates of administration of justice offences (such as breach of probation), sexual violations against children, and child pornography. At the same time, fewer police-reported incidents of breaking and entering, mischief and robbery were reported. Together, these changes contributed to a slight increase in Canada's CSI compared with 2015.

The traditional police-reported crime rate, which measures the volume of police-reported crime relative to population size, remained stable in 2016. Since peaking in 1991, Canada's crime rate has been on a downward trend, with the only increases reported in 2003 and 2015.

There were almost 1.9 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2016, approximately 27,700 more incidents than in 2015.

Detailed information is provided in the new Juristat article released today, "Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2016".

Chart 1  Chart 1: Police-reported crime severity indexes, 1998 to 2016
Police-reported crime severity indexes, 1998 to 2016

Chart 2  Chart 2: Police-reported crime rates, 1962 to 2016
Police-reported crime rates, 1962 to 2016

These data represent incidents that come to the attention of police, either through reporting by the public or pro-active policing. Information from the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization suggest most incidents of victimization, both violent and non-violent, never come to the attention of the police. Most recent statistics show that for Canadians aged 15 years and over who were victims of eight specific crime types, just under one-third (31%) of incidents were reported to the police in 2014. In general, the more serious an incident, the greater the likelihood that it came to the attention of police.

Of those victims who did not report to the police, almost 8 in 10 indicated that the incident was too minor to be worth taking the time to report. While a number of violent crime victims felt that it was a personal matter (63%), reasons for not reporting incidents of household victimization to police appeared to be primarily linked to a somewhat low expectation of results. These include believing that the police would not consider the incident important enough (66%), that they would not be able to identify the perpetrator or find the property stolen (65%), or that there was a lack of evidence for meaningful police action (61%).

Seven provinces and territories report decreases in Crime Severity Index

From 2015 to 2016, seven provinces and territories reported decreases in their CSI, while Yukon reported no change. Decreases were reported in the Northwest Territories (-9%), Quebec (-3%), Prince Edward Island (-3%), Nova Scotia (-3%), New Brunswick (-2%), Alberta (-1%), and British Columbia (-1%). In contrast, the CSI increased in Saskatchewan (+9%), Manitoba (+8%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+6%), Nunavut (+4%) and Ontario (+4%).

As in previous years, CSI and crime rates were highest in the territories. The Western provinces reported the next highest CSIs and crime rates. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan continued to have the highest overall CSI (148.8) and crime rate (11,746 incidents per 100,000 population). Prince Edward Island (48.5) reported the lowest CSI in 2016, while Quebec continued to report the lowest crime rate (3,247 incidents per 100,000 population).

Just under two-thirds of census metropolitan areas record an increase in the severity of police-reported crime

From 2015 to 2016, 20 of 33 of Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs) reported increases in their CSI. The largest increases were recorded in the CMAs of Winnipeg (+16%), Regina (+15%) and Brantford (+13%). Winnipeg's increase was a result of more reported incidents of robbery and breaking and entering. A higher CSI in Regina was primarily due to more incidents of fraud and attempted murder. The CMAs with the largest declines in CSI were Trois-Rivières (-14%) and Victoria (-12%).

As has been the case since 2010, Regina (125.8) and Saskatoon (117.8) were the CMAs with the highest CSIs. These Saskatchewan CMAs were followed in the CSI rankings in 2016 by Edmonton (105.7), Winnipeg (103.9), Kelowna (100.3), Vancouver (94.3) and Abbotsford–Mission (91.4). These seven CMAs also had the highest police-reported crime rates in 2016.

The CMAs with the lowest CSIs continued to be Québec (45.2), Barrie (45.4) and Toronto (47.5), followed by Trois-Rivières (48.7).

For half the violent crime types, rates decrease in 2016

In 2016, Canada's violent CSI, which measures the overall volume and severity of violent crime, remained stable. Rates for half the violent crime types decreased from 2015 to 2016, with the largest decline reported for criminal harassment (-7%). Violent crimes for which rates increased included sexual violations against children (+30%); violations causing death other than homicide (+14%); the relatively new violations related to the commodification of sexual activity (+11%); aggravated sexual assault (+6%); forcible confinement or kidnapping (+4%); the use, discharge, or pointing of firearms (+3%); threatening or harassing phone calls (+3%); assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (+1%), and; aggravated assault (+1%).

The national homicide rate decreases in 2016, but variation is observed across the provinces and territories

In 2016, homicides represented less than 0.2% of all violent crimes. Police reported 611 homicides in Canada in 2016, two more than the previous year. Due to growth in Canada's population, the homicide rate decreased 1% from 1.70 homicides per 100,000 population in 2015 to 1.68 homicides per 100,000 population in 2016.

There was little change at the national level, due to a mixture of notable increases seen across some provinces and notable decreases seen across others. Ontario (+32) and Saskatchewan (+10) reported the largest increases in the number of homicides in 2016. In contrast, there were large decreases in the number of homicides in Alberta (-17), Quebec (-12) and British Columbia (-10).

With eight homicides in 2016, Thunder Bay recorded the highest homicide rate among the CMAs (6.64 homicides per 100,000 population). Edmonton (47 homicides, or a rate of 3.39), and Regina (8 homicides, or a rate of 3.23) had the next-highest homicide rates. In 2016, no homicides were reported in Trois-Rivières, Kingston or Greater Sudbury.

Increase in rate of sexual violations against children coincides with increases to maximum penalties

The increase in the rate of sexual violations against children may be partly attributable to the effects on data classification of the July 2015 implementation of Bill C-26. The Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act increased the maximum penalties for most types of sexual violations against children. As crime statistics are reported based on the most serious offence as determined by the maximum penalty, legislative changes such as Bill C-26, which increase maximum penalties, can contribute to an increase in official statistics for violations affected.

While most types of sexual violations against children rose in 2016, the greatest increase was reported for incidents of sexual interference, which is the act of touching any person under the age of 16 for sexual purposes. It increased from 3,283 incidents in 2015 to 4,602 incidents in 2016.

Overall, there were just over 6,900 reported incidents of sexual violations against children in 2016, a rate increase of 30% over 2015. The rate has been on an upward trend since 2010, when the first full year of data became available.

Police are alerted to only a small proportion of sexual assault incidents

While the rate of self-reported sexual assault did not change significantly from 2004 to 2014, the rate of police-reported sexual assault in 2016 was 15% lower than a decade ago. This demonstrates that, due to a range of factors, police-reported data can underestimate the nature and extent of sexual assault.

These types of offences often go unreported to police. Self-reported data from the GSS on Victimization showed that only 5% of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians aged 15 years and older in 2014 were brought to the attention of police. Like police-reported data, the GSS found the majority (71%) of incidents involved unwanted sexual touching. The most common reasons for not reporting sexual assaults to the police were that the victim perceived the crime as minor and not worth taking the time to report (71%); the incident was a private or personal matter and handled informally (67%); and the victim perceived that no one was harmed during the incident (63%).

In early 2017, Canadian media highlighted variations in how police record sexual assaults as unfounded, which may also have had an impact on official statistics. Over the coming year, Statistics Canada will provide standards and guidelines to police services to ensure standardized reporting. Statistics Canada will once again collect and release data on unfounded incidents, including sexual assaults, in July 2018.

In 2016, there were 21,014 police-reported sexual assaults, resulting in a rate of 58 incidents per 100,000 population, a decrease of 1% from 2015. This decline is mostly attributable to the increases in maximum penalties under Bill C-26 for sexual violations against children. Criminal incidents involving both a level 1 sexual assault and a sexual violation against a child are now being counted as a sexual violation against a child. Prior to Bill C-26, these incidents would have been counted as a level 1 sexual assault.

For more information on incidents of self-reported sexual assault in Canada, refer to "Self-reported sexual assault in Canada, 2014". Statistics Canada will be publishing a Juristat article in the fall of 2017 on police-reported sexual assault and another article on court outcomes of sexual assaults reported to police.

Police-reported incidents of child pornography continue to rise

In 2016, the number and rate of child pornography incidents increased for the eighth consecutive year, up from 4,380 incidents in 2015 to 6,245 incidents in 2016. As a result, the rate increased by 41%, to 17 incidents per 100,000 population in 2016. This is 233% higher than the rate reported in 2006.

Part of this increase can be attributed to a proactive project initiated by the British Columbia Integrated Child Exploitation Unit which recorded Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that were in possession of, and possibly sharing child pornography. As the initiative focused on Vancouver in 2016, a 124% increase in these offences was reported by that jurisdiction for the year.

Second year of reporting new offences related to the commodification of sexual activity shows increases

In 2016, there were 708 police-reported incidents related to the commodification of sexual activity. These relatively new offences prohibit acts such as 'obtaining sexual services for consideration', 'receiving material benefit from sexual services', 'procuring', and 'advertising sexual services'. The new offences were introduced and outlined in December 2014 under Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. This was in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's 2013 decision that the laws surrounding prostitution offences were unconstitutional. The new legislation is aimed at protecting sex workers, considered to be victims of sexual exploitation and at risk of violence.

Compared with 2015, the rate of offences related to the commodification of sexual activity increased 11%, with most types of offences within this category increasing. The overall change in 2016 was primarily driven by an additional 51 incidents of 'procuring' and 25 more incidents of 'obtaining sexual services for consideration'.

Increase in the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, a relatively new crime

In 2016, the rate for the relatively new violation of non-consensual distribution of intimate images (enacted in March 2015 with Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act) increased 137%. In 2016, police reported 815 such incidents, compared with 340 in 2015. This is likely due not only to 2016 being the first full year of data, but, as with many new criminal offences, the growing recognition and application by police.

The new offence criminalizes publishing, distributing, selling, making available or advertising intimate images without the consent of the person depicted in the image. Reported violations increased from 2015 to 2016 in almost all provinces, with Quebec and Ontario accounting for the largest volume of growth. In Quebec, the number of reported incidents increased from 53 to 186, while in Ontario reported incidents grew from 114 to 286.

Increase in non-violent CSI in 2016 due to more police-reported incidents of fraud

In 2016, Canada's non-violent CSI increased 2% from 2015 to 69.3. The offence that contributed to this increase was fraud, which grew for the fifth consecutive year.

The rate of police-reported incidents of total fraud, which includes general fraud, identity fraud and identity theft, was 14% higher than in 2015. While the rate of general fraud (which accounts for the vast majority of fraud) grew 14%, rates also increased for identity fraud (+16%) and identify theft (+21%).

In 2016, increases in total fraud were reported by all provinces and territories, except the Northwest Territories (-12%) and New Brunswick (-12%). The largest increases were reported in Prince Edward Island (+66%), Nunavut (+61%) and Saskatchewan (+37%). Saskatchewan experienced the highest rate of total fraud (616 per 100,000 population) and Nunavut reported the lowest (216 per 100,000 population).

Increases in total fraud were reported by 28 of 33 CMAs. The only exceptions to the national increase were Saint John (-13%), Moncton (-6%), Windsor (-3%), Hamilton (-2%) and Halifax (-1%). The largest increases were reported in Greater Sudbury (+47%), Regina (+42%), Thunder Bay (+31%), Abbotsford–Mission (+30%), Saguenay (+29%) and Brantford (+29%). The increases are partly attributable to more police-reported incidents of Canada Revenue Agency–themed scams and may also be due to an increased awareness of cybercrime in general.

Rate of cannabis-related offences declines for fifth consecutive year

In Canada, drug offences such as possession, trafficking, importation and exportation, and production fall under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). In 2016, there were about 95,400 CDSA offences reported by police, representing a rate of 263 per 100,000 population. Of these, more than half (58%) were cannabis-related offences.

For the last five years, police-reported rates of cannabis-related drug offences have been declining in Canada. In 2016, there were approximately 55,000 cannabis-related drug offences reported to police, about 6,000 less than were reported in 2015. The majority of these offences (81%) were possession offences which represented a rate of 122 per 100,000 population, or 12% lower than in 2015.

Along with the decline in cannabis offences, the number of persons charged has also been decreasing. In 2016, the rate of persons charged with a cannabis-related offence declined 16% from 2015. Of the 23,329 people charged with cannabis-related offences in 2016, 17,733 (76%) were charged with possession of cannabis, about 3,600 less than in 2015.

While the rate of police-reported cannabis offences has been going down, use by Canadians has not. In 2015, 12% of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or 3.6 million people, had used cannabis in the past year, according to the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey conducted every two years. This is slightly higher than the 11% or 3.1 million people who reported use in 2013. Past-year cannabis use among this age group has fluctuated from as high as 14% in 2004 to as low as 9% in 2011.

Most forms of cocaine drug offences continued to decline in 2016, dropping 8% from 2015 to a rate of 39 incidents per 100,000 population. This was the fourth consecutive year of declines for these types of offences.

In contrast, the combined rate of possession, trafficking, production and distribution of drugs, other than cannabis and cocaine, has been increasing since 2010. From 2015 to 2016, the most notable increases were reported for possession of heroin (+32%); possession of methamphetamines (+22%); trafficking, production or distribution of heroin (+15%); and trafficking, production or distribution of methamphetamines (+10%).

In addition, there was a 7% increase in possession of "other drugs" such as prescription drugs (including opioids such as Fentanyl), LSD, and "date rape" drugs. The exceptions to the national increase were possession of methylenedioxyamphetamine, commonly known as ecstasy (-40%); trafficking, production or distribution of methylenedioxyamphetamine (-18%); and trafficking, production or distribution of "other drugs" (-3%).

Police-reported impaired driving rate down for fifth consecutive year, but drug-impaired driving up

Police reported nearly 70,500 alcohol or drug-impaired driving incidents in 2016, about 1,400 fewer than the year before. The rate of impaired driving decreased by 3% in 2016 to 194 impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population, representing the fifth consecutive year of declines.

Almost all police-reported impaired driving incidents continued to involve alcohol in 2016 (96%), while a small proportion (4%) involved drugs.

Unlike the overall decline in impaired driving from 2015 to 2016, the number and rate for almost all drug-impaired driving violations increased. There were 3,098 drug-impaired driving violations in 2016, 343 more than the previous year and an 11% increase in the rate for drug-impaired driving. Although rates for drug impaired driving are relatively low (8.5 per 100,000 population in 2016), they have been on the rise since data became available in 2008.

The national increase in 2016 was largely driven by increases in Ontario (+38%), British Columbia (+29%) and Quebec (+10%). Declines were reported in Yukon, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nunavut.

Despite the increase in the rate of drug-impaired driving, it remained low compared with the rate of alcohol-impaired driving (186 per 100,000 population). This may be partly explained by greater difficulties in measuring the level of drug impairment compared with alcohol impairment.

Youth overall Crime Severity Index is down, but youth violent Crime Severity Index is up for second consecutive year

There were approximately 88,000 youth, aged 12 to 17 years, accused of a Criminal Code offence in 2016, about 5,000 fewer than in the previous year. The rate of police-reported youth crime in 2016, 3,795 youth accused per 100,000 youth population, was 5% lower than in 2015. This marked the seventh consecutive decline since 2010 and was largely the result of a 10% decrease in the rate of youth accused of property crimes. The youth CSI, which measures both the volume and severity of crime involving youth accused (both charged and not charged), declined 2% from 2015.

While both the rate of youth accused of crimes and the youth CSI declined in 2016, the severity and volume of violent crime, measured by the youth violent CSI, increased 5%. This is the second consecutive increase in youth violent CSI reported, following consecutive declines from 2010 to 2014. The increase in youth violent CSI in 2016 was driven by more youth accused of attempted murder, robbery and sexual violations against children—specifically, the offence of sexual interference.

Most provinces and territories reported decreases in youth violent CSI. The exceptions were Nova Scotia (+25%), Quebec (+16%), Yukon (+15%) and Ontario (+14%). Manitoba reported no change. The increase in Nova Scotia was primarily due to an increase in homicides (from zero in 2015 to two in 2016) and attempted murders (from one in 2015 to eight in 2016). In Quebec, the increase was due to an additional 114 youth accused of robbery (from 383 in 2015 to 497 in 2016). In Ontario, the increase was driven by more youth accused of robbery and sexual violations against children in 2016.




  Note to readers

The crime rate and the Crime Severity Index (CSI) are complementary measures of police-reported crime. The crime rate measures the volume of crime reported to the police per 100,000 population, while the CSI measures both the volume and severity of crimes reported to the police.

To calculate the CSI, each violation is assigned a weight. CSI weights are based on the violation's incarceration rate, as well as the average length of prison sentence handed down by criminal courts. The more serious the average sentence, the higher the weight for that offence. To calculate the CSI, the weighted offences are summed and then divided by the population. As with the other indexes, to simplify comparison, the CSI is then standardized to a base year of "100" (for the CSI, the base year is 2006). In other words, all CSI values are relative to the Canada-level CSI for 2006. CSI values are available back to 1998. In addition to the overall CSI, a Violent Crime Severity Index (VCSI) and a Non-violent Crime Severity Index (NVCSI) were created. Like the overall CSI, they have been standardized; therefore, the values for these indexes are relative to the Canada-level indexes for the base year, namely "100" for 2006. For more information on the concepts and use of the severity indexes, see the document " Measuring Crime in Canada: Introducing the Crime Severity Index and Improvements to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey " (Catalogue number85-004-X). Also, see the video, "Measuring crime in Canada: a detailed look at the Crime Severity Index."

Data are drawn from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, a census of all crime known to, and substantiated by, police services. However, for incidents of child pornography, due to the complexfity of these incidents, the data likely reflect the number of active or closed investigations for the year and that reside within the police records management system, rather than the total number of incidents reported to police. Police-reported crime statistics conform to a nationally approved set of common crime categories and definitions. They have been systematically reported by police services and submitted to Statistics Canada every year since 1962. Differences in local police service policies, procedures and enforcement practices can affect the comparability of crime statistics at the municipal level.

Statistics Canada also collects self-reported victimization data from the General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS).The GSS collects information on self-reported incidents of criminal victimization, regardless of whether they were reported to the police. The GSS on Victimization is carried out every five years; the most recent cycle for which data are available was conducted in 2014.

Products

The Juristat article "Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2016" (Catalogue number85-002-X) is now available.

Additional data are available upon request.

Additional information related to this release will be available in CANSIM soon.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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